Home > Pursued by the Alien Lord

Pursued by the Alien Lord
Author: Mina Carter





“Mr. James,” Raven Haverington said, suppressing her irritation. “I’ve told you before that having me on site personally costs more.”

She wasn’t amused—either that a client was querying her bill or that she actually had to come here in person rather than appearing through a video link—and didn’t bother hiding the fact. Video was always her preference.

She didn’t like leaving the safety of her apartment. Although apartment was somewhat of a misleading term. She had no windows, no fancy little balcony, and more importantly no neighbors. She lived in an old converted bomb shelter, a concrete basement hidden under one of the big high-rise towers downtown. It wasn’t the best neighborhood, but she wasn’t bothered about the real estate value, the local amenities, or transport links. The only thing she was interested in was the proximity to the data relay stations. Her apartment sat under a nexus of relays like a big fat spider in a web. She pulled the strings of the web, finding information and rooting out all the secrets that people wanted to keep hidden from her, and drew her prey to her… Digitally, of course.

Sighing, she refocused on the problem at hand. Mr. James. The only reason she’d been lured out of her lair was because this particular client was a high-paying one with little risk. Corporate espionage was one of her favorite side jobs. It ran a relatively low risk of being spiked in the datastreams and having her brain wiped to leave just an empty body—an empty husk that hadn’t gotten the memo that its occupant had vacated the premises. Just as his jobs were relatively low risk, so was coming here in person.

Charles James was a corporate type through and through—from the top of his styled hair, swept into a small quiff without a hair out of place, through the suit and tie no doubt purchased from a store with a guard on the door to stop the riffraff getting in, right down to the expensive Italian shoes that were no doubt tucked under the desk. He even had an expensive office with a penthouse view of the city stretched out below them—a good view as well. Someone had put thought and time as well as money into selecting this building for his offices. She couldn’t see even one of the sewage plants, and the Anselm industrial plants were just out of view. Given the city plans that she’d dug up said this building was originally low-cost housing, James’s business had really put a chunk of change into renovating it. She knew better than to ask where the people he had displaced had gone for housing. People like James didn’t care about things like that.

She looked at him with a stare that would have given a rattlesnake a headache. She knew she made him nervous; she made most people nervous, and that was on a good day. On a bad day like today when she was irritated, it was a hundred times worse. To his credit, though, James was not fidgeting too much.

She’d refused a seat when she’d arrived, instead leaning her ass against the back of one of the big leather couches in the middle of the room. They were really leather as well, another display of wealth that continued around the room. Almost as large as the main room of her lair, it had picture windows across two walls, plush carpeting that her heavy boots sank into, and mood lighting that highlighted the works of art dotted around the room. She was no art dealer, but she could tell real pieces when she saw them, even in the real world. It was the work of a moment to dip into the datastream, identify the artists, and get a price for the last time the pieces were sold. Interestingly, several were listed as stolen.

Focusing on the man behind the desk, she kept her expression level and neutral. Charles James was everything that was wrong with the corporate world. Greedy and avaricious, she saw them all the time in the datastreams. They didn’t travel on the metro or the trains, instead utilizing private vehicles… be that land-based or flyers, belching yet more contamination and pollution into the air. Didn’t matter to people like him that he was killing a world that countless future generations needed to survive. His hands were “clean.” The only blood he spilled was on spreadsheets. If he saw the real thing or even a body that had been spiked, he’d probably lose the very expensive lunch whose wrappers she could just see in the rubbish bin under his desk.

“That’s what I’m disputing.”

James sat back in his chair behind the huge real wood desk, his fingers steepled like an archetypal holo-movie villain. She barely cast it a glance. Real wood meant it was an antique, quite the statement since hardly any trees remained anymore, apart from the nature reserves and the collections of rich assholes like James.

“The job is the same whether you are on site or at your own location, so this extra charge is—”

“One you agreed to,” she interrupted him, her voice blunt and uncompromising.

Folding her arms across her chest, she fought the urge to pull her sleeves down. Most people put the movement down to the dataports embedded on the inside of her forearms, but it wasn’t. She was a cyber-hunter… She couldn’t care less about what people thought of her alterations or of them staring at them.

It was more about the now barely there scars that lay like a fine lattice over her skin, the result of a car accident that had claimed the lives of her parents, and almost taken her own. She’d lain in a coma for nearly a year and been paralyzed from the neck down for a year after that. Her first dataports had been her only lifeline, a way to access some semblance of life outside her crippled body.

“Regardless, company policy is not to pay extra for work dependent on its physical location.”

She snapped back to the conversation, giving him a hard stare. A lot of her clients assumed that just because she was female, she was a doormat. It was time to stop playing nice.

“That’s not going to work for me. Pay up or—”

He grinned broadly, like a shark. A corporate shark. The kind who looked down on other people they thought were somehow “less” than they were.

“Or else what, Ms. Haverington?” he asked, silky smooth, his voice filled with arrogance and his own self-importance.

She bit back her smile. He obviously thought himself unassailable—her favorite type of asshole to take down. But he wasn’t done digging his own grave.

“Sue me for nonpayment if you like.” The grin broadened. “Since your services are technically illegal… I’d like to see how that one turns out.”

She sighed. “Assholes like you never learn. Do you?”

Without moving, she opened herself up to the datastream. Although she had physical jack-ports, she didn’t need them to tap in to the streams. That was the beauty of viper-tech. She could piggyback off any nearby data cable and use it for access. It took her less than a microsecond to disable the digital security in the entire building. Then everything went crazy.

She killed the lights, every screen in the building flickering randomly. Apart from James’s screen. She displayed everything for him as she set about destroying his business in brutal, nitpicky detail. She had control of his company from the roots up, ferreting out each and every asset he had, even the ones he’d hidden in various offshore bank accounts and other places that assholes like this hid stuff they didn’t want the authorities to know about.

James’s face leached grey, beads of sweat forming on his brow as he watched his company’s value plummet.

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